Posts Tagged ‘Publisher- Pan’

Pandora’s Star

Peter F Hamilton

It is AD 2380 and humanity has colonized over six hundred planets, all interlinked by wormholes. With Earth at its centre, the Intersolar Commonwealth has grown into a quiet, wealthy society, where rejuvenation allows its citizens to live for centuries.
When astronomer Dudley Bose observes a star over a thousand light years away vanish, imprisoned inside a vast force field of immense size, the Commonwealth is anxious to discover what actually happened. As conventional wormholes can’t reach that far, they must build the first faster-than-light starship. Captained by Wilson Kime, an ex-NASA astronaut a little too eager to relive his glory day the Second Chance sets off on its historic voyage of discovery.
But someone or something out there must have had a very good reason for sealing off an entire star system. And if the Second Chance does manage to find a way in, what might then be let out?

Pandora’s Star is the first of five (at the time of writing) large novels set in Hamilton’s Commonwealth universe. The first two of which are known collectively as the Commonwealth Saga, the other three (set centuries later) known as The Void Trilogy.

The book begins with the spectacular public unveiling of Nigel Sheldon and Ozzie Isaacs’ experimental wormhole technology when they play a prank on the first manned mission to Mars in 2050, almost instantly making NASA and its space program redundant.

Fast-forward three centuries, and humanity lives in a peaceful society spread over hundreds of worlds – each one having at least one wormhole station through which you can take trains between worlds, or in some cases simply walk through. As there is no shortage of resources or new planets to colonise, there have been no wars for generations.

People are effectively immortal as the technology exists to return their bodies to their 20s as they grow old. Most people also have implants recording their entire mind, so that they are killed (the book calls this “bodyloss”) in an accident or murdered, they can be “relifed” into a new cloned body in a matter of months, with all their memories and personality intact.

The religious consequences of this “relife” process are glossed over, though Hamilton’s earlier Confederation trilogy examined eternal human souls in great depth, so perhaps it is for the best that this was not repeated here.

Instead, the practical considerations are well thought through. Can someone legally commit murder if the victim can be brought back to life? How do you punish someone who is effectively immortal? One of the characters, Paula Myo is an investigator in such a case and with this we really get a sense of how a society could work with such possibilities, even though all of this is unrelated to the main plot of the book.

In fact, much of the book is spent in careful world building, making this future civilisation feel very real. There are a lot of story threads following an ensemble cast of dozens, making it sometimes a little difficult to keep up with what is going on, though there is a handy list of the main characters at the front of the book to remind you.

As to the main story, it is a mystery story for the first half of the book. What is inside the giant forcefield so far away? Who built it? Why was it built? Should humanity be poking around with it? There’s a lot of politics involved in getting a project off the ground to go and find out and I found myself itching for the mission to get going and almost frustrated during these chapters, as indeed some of the characters clearly felt. However, the eventual payoff is spectacular.

Verdict: A long and very complex novel, though well worth it both for an incredibly well-realised future society and fascinating multi-threaded plotting.

Reviewed by Keith

Publisher: Pan Books
Publication Date:2010
Format: Paperback
Pages: 1144
Genre:Space Opera,Speculative Fiction
Age: Adult
Reviewer: Keith
Source: Own Copy
Challenge: British author
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Confessions Of A Bad Mother

Stephanie Calman

In the aisle by the chill cabinets no one can hear you scream…
Funny, acutely observed, frighteningly honest and drawing on her own and hundreds of other mum’s real experiences, Stephanie Calman serves up the perfect antidote to all those books that tell you that your children must be perfect, and to all those Stepford mums and kids out there who look as if they just might be: perfectly groomed, perfectly behaved and perfectly brilliant. The reality, as we all know, encompasses sleepless nights, no sex for years, baby sick on your best cashmere cardy, the terrible twos and then, just when you thought it was safe to go back in the sitting room, terrible teenagers whose only means of communication is the slamming door or the grunt.

It was the above byline that grabbed my attention. I was feeling particularly annoyed with my own children and huffing and puffing to myself as I went in to the charity shop, started browsing the books. I saw this book, read the byline, said ‘aha’ loudly and maniacally and marched off to the til to pay my 50 pence!

I like Stephanie Calman’s writing. I’ve not come across her before but she writes regularly in a couple of national newspapers as well as books. She also has a website; Bad Mothers Club .

This book is in fact her own story of how she came to get married and have children and the experience of trying to parent two toddlers and never feeling she gets it quite right. I’d picked it up thinking it was fiction, but after an initial slight disappointment that it wasn’t I got stuck in and and quickly started to enjoy Stephanie’s witty writing and sheer honesty about the pitfalls and stresses of trying to raise children without losing your sanity entirely!

There are many funny stories, moments that have made me groan in recognition and others that have had me giggling nonstop.

This is an older book but it’s made me want to look out for other books that she’s written and I may even stumble on to the ‘bad mothers’ website to add a story or two of my own!

Verdict: A witty and entertaining read.

Reviewed by Lesley

Publisher: Pan
Publication Date: February 2006
Format: Paperback
Pages: 324
Genre: Non Fiction, Parenting
Age: Adult book review
Reviewer: Lesley
Source: Own Copy
Challenge: None
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The Distant Hours

Kate Morton

Edie Burchill and her mother have never been close, but when a long lost letter arrives with the return address of Milderhurst Castle, Kent, printed on its envelope, Edie begins to suspect that her mother’s emotional distance masks an old secret. Evacuated from London as a thirteen year old girl, Edie’s mother is chosen by the mysterious Juniper Blythe, and taken to live at Millderhurst Castle with the Blythe family. Fifty years later, Edie too is drawn to Milderhurst and the eccentric Sisters Blythe. Old ladies now, the three still live together, the twins nursing Juniper, whose abandonment by her fiancé in 1941 plunged her into madness. Inside the decaying castle, Edie begins to unravel her mother’s past. But there are other secrets hidden in the stones of Milderhurst Castle, and Edie is about to learn more than she expected. The truth of what happened in the distant hours has been waiting a long time for someone to find it …

Having read Kate Morton’s previous two novels and loved them I was delighted when someone at the book club I go to chose this for our next read. However for reasons I can’t remember I didn’t finish it in time for our discussion (sick children I suspect!) but went along anyway (needed to get away from sick children? ;-)). That meant that I found out the end of the story and consequently shelved the book for a while. I recently got it out again and was glad to have forgotten what happened and started again. The thing that I did remember from the previous time was how much I had enjoyed it!

Before I get into the story I want to say that my favourite thing about this book is the atmosphere created in it. Milderhurst Castle feels like a character itself, unchanging over time, but for the added secrets that it holds in its walls. It means something different to each of the people connected with it and its hold over them is undeniable. The descriptions of it show its beauty and its gothic eeriness. Kate’s writing brings it alive and the whole of the book is pervaded by a feeling of mystery and history.

The story itself moves back and forth between the present day with Edie Burchill and the early 1940’s with her mother Meredith. This dual thread way of writing has been done many times, but it is used to great effect to build up the mystery and to get to know all the characters involved in a much deeper and more complex way. It really enhances this story. The unresolved mystery at the centre of the story is what happened to Juniper to drive her to madness, and for Edie, the question of what was her mother’s part in it. The unravelling of it involves love stories, betrayal, revenge, ambition and stormy nights.

Edie is an interesting character, but as the story develops and we learn more about Meredith I found her the more intriguing. There is a fantastic exploration of family relationships through the novel and the interactions between Edie and Meredith and the way they have come to be as they are was riveting. I was absorbed by the way that a chain of events affects a person and the culmination of that making its way down the years to future generations.

This is echoed in the story of the sisters Blythe. The complicated relationship between the sisters again links back to the effects of a parent. Their Father, who doted on them and yet had to control and manipulate them, even beyond the grave. The secrecy and lies that are woven into their relationships mean that there are stories layered between stories. The fact that this is a family of writers and Edie is a publisher adds to the web.

Verdict: I adored this book, I couldn’t put it down its story is gripping and the descriptive writing is a joy to read.

Reviewed by Helen

Publisher: Pan
Publication Date: May 2011
Format: Paperback
Pages: 600
Genre: Fiction
Age: Adult
Reviewer: Helen
Source: Own copy
Challenge: Oldest Book On The Shelf
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